Published 10 years, 4 days past

Below is the eulogy I delivered at Rebecca’s funeral, as I wrote it.  I hope that what I actually said matches the text.  The same deep shock that let me speak also prevented me from retaining any clear memory of what I said, and I’m not ready to watch the archived recording of the service to find out.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready.  I hope I will — to see Carolyn’s tribute to her sister, if nothing else.

Rebecca was fierce.  She beat adults in staring contests when she was two weeks old.  Rebecca was joyful.  Her laugh could fill a room and bring a smile to anyone who heard it.  Rebecca was stubborn.  She would often refuse to give in, even when it cost her something she wanted.  Rebecca was kind, and loving, and mischievous, and oh so very ticklish.

She vibrated with energy.  Her philosophy was essentially: never walk when you can skip, never skip when you can run, never run when you can dance, and never dance when you can hide yourself around the next corner and then laughingly yell “BOO!” when everyone else finally catches up with you.

She loved to steal our phones and wallets and keys from our pockets, not to hide them away or do anything mean or malicious, but to wave them in front of us and laugh her way through an affectionate, singsong tease.  If there’s a world beyond this one, I hope whoever’s in charge has secured all the valuables.  Not to prevent her from swiping them, which would be an impossible goal, but because she would be disappointed and bored if they were too easy to swipe.

Rebecca is not an angel, nor would she wish to be.  If anything, Rebecca is now a poltergeist.  On her sixth birthday, we had planned to go to Cedar Point that day and the next.  Instead, that was the day she died… and on that day, a water main break closed Cedar Point for the entire weekend, because if she couldn’t go, then nobody gets to go.  And in brief conversation this morning, I was literally about to say the words “lose electricity” when the power went out in our house.

The little stinker.

One of the hardest things for us in the last few weeks of her life was seeing how the tumor slowly and inexorably took all that sass and spice away from her.  The loss of energy and emotion was horrible.  We had fought so long and hard to keep her quality of life normal, and we had succeeded.  It was only at the very end, just the last few days, that she moved beyond our ability to preserve it.

Underneath it all, she was still Rebecca.  She got mad at her sister and brother because they would get to stay us and she wouldn’t, and then she forgave them because she understood it wasn’t their fault and she loved them so much.  She gave us disdainful looks when she thought our attempts to tease her were lame.  She asked, wordlessly but clearly, to hear her favorite stories.  She told us she didn’t love us because she wanted to push us away, to lessen our pain.  But when we explained to her that the joy of loving her was worth any pain, and that we could never stop loving her regardless, she relented and admitted the truth that we had never doubted.  The last words and gestures that passed between us were of love.

In her last hours, she was surrounded by love, her room filled with people who loved her as she loved them, never leaving her alone for a second.  We held and snuggled her all the way to the end, all of us together.  And the people in that room were surrounded by the love of those who loved them, and they by those who loved them.  All of that love focused on Rebecca.  She deserved it.  But then, so does every child.

Now she is gone, and we who remain are devastated.  It is only together that we will move forward.  Community has sustained us the past months, and made it possible for us to do everything we could for Rebecca and Carolyn and Joshua.  Community will help us get through this.  Our hearts have been broken into uncountable pieces, but we will help pick up those pieces together.  I am beyond heartbroken that she is gone, but I will never, not for an instant, ever regret that she came into our home and our lives.

What matters in this life is not what we do but what we do for others, the legacy we leave and the imprint we make.  Her time may have been short, but her spark illuminated so much in that time, touched and warmed so many people, and for the rest of our days we will all be changed for the better.

Comments (20)

  1. Love.

  2. I must tell you: Carolyn’s tribute to her sister was breathtakingly good. I was watching via computer and my husband was walking by, and he just froze in his tracks, mesmerized and more than impressed. We turned and looked at each other, exchanging a voiceless “Wow.” And she smiled. She smiled. Who, at any age, can stand up like that, sing like that, and, despite their grief, smile like that? THAT was a tribute. An unforgettable one.

  3. Eric, I watched the service and I could how much energy it took for you to eulogize Rebecca. Such sweet words for such a sweet life. Carolyn’s song was absolutely beautiful and her strength was clear.

    I’d like to paraphrase something I wrote on Molly Holzschlag’s FB post about the article that appeared on Rebecca’s memorial.

    “In an unrelated post on my timeline today, someone said there’s a word for a married person who loses his or her mate and for a child who loses his or her parents but there is no word for a parent who loses a child. It’s the unthinkable.

    I grew up with illness in my immediate family. And I often think of family dynamics as being in equilibrium, even in dysfunctional families. When a family member dies it upsets that equilibrium. With Eric’s situation, that equilibrium seemed to change every day during Rebecca’s illness. That “up and down” is horrific and exhausting.

    I hope that all of you can find some peace and equilibrium as soon as is possible. The memories of Rebecca will last forever. But I hope the earthquake that is upon all of you will subside enough for you to start breathing again.

  4. Eric and family, I pray that you find comfort in the arms of Our Creator and solace in each other’s company. I’m in tears contemplating Rebecca’s passing. Doubtless, joyful Rebecca is a loss to many in the world, even those who don’t know of her. That much passion and spirit would surely have been an ongoing gift, not only to her family.

    I think of you all from time to time, and have followed Rebecca’s story, always believing I would not ever have to read the words of her eulogy. I’m so sorry.

    Farewell, dear little Rebecca. Dance in the halls of heaven as you have here, with us.

  5. Beautiful.

  6. You showed a depth of strength and love that touched us all. At her young age, Carolyn has a presence that most of us never attain. She was amazing and the Temple resonated with the energy of Carolyn’s voice and love.

  7. Eric, if I ever have to do anything as impossibly difficult as eulogize my own daughter, I hope I can do it with the same elegance as you demonstrated at the service. It was a beautiful tribute, and though your memory of its delivery may be fuzzy, know that it was meaningful and memorable to those of us who listened to it. Thank you for sharing this entire experience with us, both for the opportunity to help you through it and the opportunity to get to know Rebecca and honor her memory. In the hard days ahead, I hope you’ll continue to lean on us.

  8. Endless love and strength.

  9. I do not know your family, but I feel like I do. You were so lucky to have rebecca, and she was equally lucky to have you. I watched the funeral online, and the rabbi was so right when he said it’s not supposed to happen that way. Carolyn’s singing was amazing. As was your eulogy. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you, but I so admire how you did this for your beautiful daughter rebecca.

  10. No words, especially from a stranger, can be expected to make a meaningful dent in the kind of grief I can only imagine you are feeling. Just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you, Rebeccaa, and the rest of your family in this difficult time.

  11. No words, especially from a stranger, can be expected to make a meaningful dent in the kind of grief I can only imagine you are feeling. Just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you, Rebecca, and the rest of your family in this difficult time.

  12. Painfully beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  13. You did very well, much better than anyone could have expected. The poltergeist line nearly made me laugh out loud.

    The comments made by those who knew her made it clear how well and truly loved she was by everyone.

    I especially appreciated the comments made by the first man who spoke (one of the Rabbis, I assume, but I don’t know how name) who did not say any of the usual introductory things one might expect, but said “This is backwards.” I’m not sure if he actually said “This is wrong, this shouldn’t be” but it was clear from his tone.

    May her memory be a blessing.

  14. I stumbled on your blog through another one … and all I can say is, thank you for sharing your beautiful daughter with us. My heart breaks over and over for you and your family. I am not a parent, so I don’t know from the inside the excruciating pain I know you are going through now, but I know it from watching my parents. We lost my older brother and sister seven months from each other a year or so ago. As a sister, I know too well the pain of losing a sibling … I am sure that Carolyn and Joshua will be glad someday to have this treasure of memories at their fingertips. It is a wonderful gift for them to know that Rebecca will live forever not just in your hearts but here as well. I wish you all as much solace as you can find today and always in the amazing love you all have for each other — it shines through. I am sending you all warm hugs, and sitting shiva with you in spirit.

  15. Anything you need, anytime, we are here. Lean on us. Thank you for gifting Rebecca to the world. We are all the better for it. All my love.

  16. Such a heartbreakingly beautiful tribute to the shining light that was Rebecca and all those who love her so deeply. We will keep up the fight in her name in hopes that one day there will be a cure for this monster called cancer and no other parent will have go through what you, her family and friends have endured.

  17. My heart breaks for you as you go through this time. IT will never be the same without your precious Rebecca but I believe with all my heart that her visits will still come to you and she will let you know that she is doing well. Your tribute to your beautiful daughter was eloquent and beautiful. May God give you the comfort you all need for the days ahead.

  18. Strength & love.

  19. Beautiful.

  20. posting this in sorrow and love

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